It’s a new season in Class 1A. Regardless of what has happened thus far, every team in the classification has a chance to make the playoffs by winning a league championship. In at least three cases, a game set for this weekend could end deciding which team lands the title and post-season berth. Bennett faces Clear Creek in the Foothills, Strasburg meets Highland in the Northern and Crowley County battles Rocky Ford in the Santa Fe.
#1 Bennett vs #10 Clear Creek
#7 Platte Canyon vs Vail Christian
Front Range Christian at Manual
As the only conference with three members in the top 10, the league sports the best record (16-7) to this point of the season. Bennett, Platte Canyon and Clear Creek all enter league play without a loss and Manual sits at 3-1.
The meeting of Bennett and Clear Creek could be high scoring as both teams have shown the ability to put up plenty of points. Bennett has totaled 199 points through four games; just one shy of averaging 50 points a contest. Clear Creek has scored at least 38 points in three of four games this year and tallied 22 fourth quarter points in last weeks’ 28-20 win over 3A Summit. The strategy though is completely different for each offense.
Bennett averages 474 yards per game rushing and in the win over Burlington last week, had three players rush for at least 100 yards for the second time this season.
Rocky Lechman ran for 244 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 touches. The senior QB now has 839 yards rushing and 13 scores for the season. Mason Wakeham ended with 141 yards on 12 carries and Jesse Rodriquez finished with 119 yards on just 13 attempts.
Clear Creek QB Ty Judge attempted 50 passes in the come from behind win over Summit. The senior completed 27 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Judge is only 71 yards away from averaging 300 yards per game through the air. His top targets last week were Noah Siarra with 12 catches for 218 yards and Lucas Gerding with 10 for 51.
The key though for both teams could be defense. If one of the units can put together two or three stops during the game, that may be the difference.
The Platte Canyon – Vail Christian matchup may not be a good one for the Saints. They’ve allowed 934 yards rushing in losses to Hotchkiss, Cedaredge and Grand Valley. Running the football is what Platte Canyon does well as they average 262 per game with 140 attempts in just three games
Manual enters league play coming off their first loss of the season to 2A Weld Central. They should return to the win column against Front Range Christian who fell to Estes Park 42-18 last week.
#3 Strasburg vs Highland
Cornerstone Christian at Lyons
Estes Park at Byers
Strasburg beat Highland 59-22 to win the conference crown last year and neither team was pushed in league play otherwise. The Indians won every league game by at least 35 points and the Huskies by 46. They’re again favored to finish one-two this season with Cornerstone Christian hoping to be in the mix.
The defending champions enter the league race 3-1 and coming off a hard fought 14-12 win at Limon last week. Hunter Bergstrom scored both TDs on long runs including a 71 yarder and finished with 135 yards on 15 carries. Against Highland a year ago, Bergstrom picked up 94 yards as the Indians ran for 443 as a team.
Highland moved the ball against Strasburg last season gaining 244 yards rushing including 110 from Logan Stewart who is back for his senior season. The Huskies are 2-2 and have not played since falling at home to Wray 35-26 in week three. Highland also owns a quality win over 9th ranked Peyton 13-7.
Cornerstone Christian (3-1) has won their last three including last week’s 17-6 quality win at Wray. Brayden Kelch gained 114 yards upping his season total to 430. They’re heavily favored against Lyons.
Estes Park snapped a 13-game losing streak by beating Front Range Christian 42-18 last week. Dennis Campos ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns and JD McCown threw for 142.
Byers lost on the last play of the game to Wiggins (24-20) last week. They’ve dropped seven straight with their last win coming against Estes Park last season. The teams have split the last two meetings but neither team has reached double figures in scoring in either contest.
#9 Crowley County vs Rocky Ford
Dolores Huerta at Trinidad
While Rocky Ford and Crowley County are a combined 7-1, the rest of the league has managed just two wins in 14 games. That likely means the winner between the Chargers and Meloneers will end up with the conference crown and automatic playoff berth.
QB Bradley Clabey leads a balanced Crowley County attack with 568 yards and eight touchdowns passing and another 260 and six scores on the ground. Canaan Geringer paces the ground game with 453 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Meyer (18) and Hayden Carter (12) have combined for 30 catches for 445 yards and seven touchdowns.
Rocky Ford has beaten John Mall (47-0) and St Mary’s (20-17) since falling on the road to Limon in week one. In last week’s win, sophomore Isaiah Garcia completed 19 of 29 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also tossed four interceptions.
David Trujillo was his favorite receiver as the junior caught nine passes for 103 yards and two scores. Garcia added another 28 yards on the ground but the Meloneers managed just 68 for the entire game.
#8 Peyton at Rye
St Mary’s at Colorado Springs Christian
Lake County at Buena Vista
Like the Santa Fe conference, this league championship likely comes down to one game and that’s the meeting between Peyton and Colorado Springs Christian on October 27th. The Panthers and Lions both sit at 3-1 while the remaining league members are a combined 2-14.
Peyton handled Ellicott (41-0) last week marking their third shutout of the season. The Panthers defense has allowed just 13 points this season and all came in a week two loss to Highland. 10 players have already reached double figures in tackles; a group led by Nate McLarty (42) and Tyler Noffsinger (37). The defense has picked up 44 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and another 19.5 sacks.
Colorado Springs Christian stretched their winning streak to three by edging Valley 7-0 last week. The game was delayed by lightning and played during a rainstorm much of the night. Grant Baker scored the lone touchdown; returning an interception for a score.
#4 Centauri – Bye
Monte Vista at Ignacio
Dolores at John Mall
Centauri is 5-0 and has an additional week to prepare for their annual showdown with Monte Vista. The outcome of that game has typically decided the top two spots in the conference and this year could be more of the same. The Falcons have surrendered only 37 points this season including a pair of shutouts.
After losing two straight, Monte Vista looks to regroup against Ignacio. The Bobcats have allowed 127 points in four games including 87 in the last two. Monte Vista is coming off losses to Pagosa Springs and 2nd ranked Meeker.
Dolores has a two game winning streak. They’ve rolled Dolores Huerta and Whitehorse UT by a combined 88-3 total. John Mall has tallied just 14 points in four games while giving up 146.
#5 Limon at Wray
Holyoke at Burlington
Yuma at Wiggins
Other than the two long touchdown runs, Limon’s defense matched up very well with the Strasburg offense. The Badgers had a chance to send the game into overtime but misfired on a two-point conversion in the final minute. The conversion try was pushed back to the 18 yard line after the Badgers were whistled for a penalty.
The Badgers defense faces another run oriented attack against Wray. Employing the single wing, the Eagles have racked up 1,203 yards (301 per game) this year along with 12 touchdowns on the ground. Cade Hillman is the main threat. He has 543 yards with nine scores.
Burlington was effective on offense last week but couldn’t slow the Bennett running game in a 50-38 loss to the top ranked Tigers. It was a game filled with big plays. Bennett had three touchdowns of at least 60 yards and Burlington matched that with three scoring plays of at least 50 yards.
Case Rieber ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns and backfield mate Kaden Meurisse added 100 yards and another score. Braden Witzel threw for 147 yards and two scores.
Second half execution has been an issue for Holyoke in losses to Machebeuf (35-7) and Meeker (39-6). The Dragons were in both games at intermission but were outscored 28-0 in the second half by Meeker and 21-0 by Machebeuf. The defense also surrendered 276 yards and over nine yards a carry to Machebeuf last week and that unit must be better to knock off Burlington.
Wiggins and Yuma both have wins over Lyons this year. Yuma handled the Lions 48-7 last week and the Tigers took them out 36-20 the week before. Wiggins stretched the winning streak to two by stunning Byers (24-20) last week; scoring the winning touchdown on the final play of the game.
#2 Meeker vs Hotchkiss
#6 Paonia vs Cedaredge
Grand Valley at Olathe
Trailing only the Foothills, the Western Slope teams finished non-league play with an overall record of 15-8. Each team is at or above five hundred for the season which should make for an exciting conference schedule. Meeker is favored and Paonia could push them but there is enough talent across the board to see “upsets” each week.
The Cowboys have lost just two games in conference play over the past three years and both have come against Paonia. Coach Shane Phelan’s team overcame that hurdle last season on their way to a perfect 5-0 run and the conference crown.
Defense has been surprisingly good for the Cowboys. Despite losing their top four and seven of the top nine tacklers from last season, they’ve allowed only 20 points in four games. Tannen Kennedy leads the team with 43 tackles, Tevin Pelloni has 36 and six others are in double figures. None of the players finished in the top 15 in tackles on the team a year ago.
Hotchkiss faces Meeker this week and Paonia next so they have a difficult starting schedule. The Bulldogs rely heavily on the duo of Colton Peebles (373) and Devin Curtis (225) who have combined for 598 yards rushing and seven touchdowns this season.
Paonia has won their last three since falling to #5 Centauri in zero week. But the schedule over that stretch has not been difficult with wins coming against Rye, Ridgeview Academy and Roaring Fork. Those three have just one win among them.
Jaden Miller has carried much of the offensive load this year gaining at least 149 yards on the ground in every game. He has 639 yards and ten scores on the season.
Cedaredge opened 0-2 with losses to Monte Vista and Aspen but has responded by beating Vail Christian and Gunnison. Ty Grant ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns against Vail Christian and could see increased responsibilities in league play.
Olathe needs to button up things against the run defensively. After beating Roaring Fork and Gunnison to open, the Pirates gave up 315 yards to Centauri and 545 on the ground to Coal Ridge. The Falcons and Titans also combined for a whopping ten touchdowns.
Grand Valley is averaging 166 yards per game on the ground and may look to increase those numbers against the Pirates.